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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 540:87-98 (2015)  -  DOI:

Parasites alter behavior, reproductive output, and growth patterns of Aurelia medusae in a marine lake

Luciano M. Chiaverano1,*, William M. Graham1, John H. Costello2

1Department of Marine Science, University of Southern Mississippi. 1020 Balch Blvd., Stennis Space Center, MS 39529, USA
2Biology Department, Providence College, 1 Cunningham Square, Providence, RI 02918, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Parasites are known to induce phenotypic modifications in their hosts through direct competition for resources, which can negatively affect host fitness. Although parasite-induced phenotypic variation has been studied extensively in terrestrial and freshwater taxa, this phenomenon remains comparatively under-studied in marine pelagic invertebrates, such as ecologically important jellyfish. Here we studied the parasite–host relationship between Edwardsiella sp. anemone larvae (parasite) and medusae of Aurelia sp. 5 (host) in an isolated marine lake (Veliko Jezero) in Croatia. During 3 different seasons, we quantified differences in the vertical position in the water column, morphology, and egg production between parasitized and unparasitized medusae. Our results revealed that medusa behavior, morphology, and fecundity can be significantly affected by parasitism. Infected medusae were more abundant higher in the water-column where water was warmer, while unparasitized individuals displayed the opposite pattern. In addition, host somatic growth, gonad size, and egg production were negatively affected by parasitism, suggesting an ultimate negative effect on medusa fecundity. Parasitized individuals, however, developed relatively longer manubria and produced larger eggs than unparasitized counterparts, indicating a compensatory response to increase capture surface and reproductive effort. This study demonstrates the extent of parasite-induced phenotypic variation in jellyfish as well as the role of parasites in potential regulation of jellyfish population size.

KEY WORDS: Parasitism · Plasticity · Jellyfish · Edwardsiella · Mljet

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Cite this article as: Chiaverano LM, Graham WM, Costello JH (2015) Parasites alter behavior, reproductive output, and growth patterns of Aurelia medusae in a marine lake. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 540:87-98.

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